Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Female Chauvinist Pigs and Special Snowflake Syndrome

When I was sixteen and still figuring out what feminism meant to me, I read an amazing book called Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy.  At some point in the last five years and half a dozen moves, the book was lost.  But I am still reminded of it on a daily basis when I turn on the TV, read anything on the internet, or...well, walk around in public.

Levy's thesis can be summed up in one sentence: Women can be misogynistic, too.  But it's a lot more complex than that.  Time for a brief history lesson.

After the second wave of feminism, women found themselves with the challenge of figuring out how to fit these new ideas into society.  How to make the worldview that equalized women more acceptable to the mainstream.  And there was an ideological break in second-wave feminism that ended up being highly detrimental, and the shockwaves of which can still be seen in the attitudes of women today.  A lot of this had to do with sexuality.  The late '70s and early '80s were the time of the Porn Wars. 

There were women that were entirely against the glorification of women being demeaned, dehumanized, or objectified in any way.  And women like Andrea Dworkin, perhaps the most famous of the anti-porn crusaders, believed that's what porn was.  She believed that any heterosexual intercourse carried with it a built-in societal power dynamic that, unless all outside stigma was removed, could never be equalized.  And that pornography is always unequal and violent to women.  It was an extreme view, but there are always extremes on both sides of moral issues.

On the other side came the women who believed that women using their sexuality were powerful.  That having the ability to discuss sex, have sex, and be sexy was a right that their mothers did not have and that it was empowering and not demeaning.  There is certainly truth in this, to an extent.  But it birthed an interesting movement.

The effects of this perfect storm of not-quite-wrong-on-either-sideness is the new generation of women trying to navigate the middle ground.  Many of these women have simply gone with the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality; in this instance, the official term is internalized misogyny. 

Now I have reached my point.

I've seen a lot of feminist writers in the internet (most prominently the fantastic writer of STFU, Sexists.) use the term "Special Snowflake Syndrome" for the condition I'm about to describe.  It's a pretty appropriate description.  If you read comments on sexist articles, on sexist Facebook posts, or pretty much anywhere on the Internet, you have probably become very familiar with something like the following:

"I'm a woman and I find that rape joke hilarious!"
"I'm a woman and I think you shouldn't take that so seriously."
"I'm a woman and I totally loooove it when my boyfriend tells me to go make him a sandwich.  I think it's refreshing and original!"
"I'm a woman and that girl IS a total slut."

This is internalized misogyny.  This is women wanting to be more like men so that they can be accepted as equals to men without doing the work of fighting for those rights to be both different AND equal.  It's actually counterproductive.  See also: women going to strip clubs, women flashing their tits because they're really super-liberated, women bashing other women because you would sooo never be a huge bitch/trashy ho/total feminazi lesbian like that. 

I'm not saying that women shouldn't call other women on their shit ever.  Women have shitty opinions, too.  In fact, I'm doing that right now.  But "girl-on-girl crime" (I guess I'm stealing that from Tina Fey though I doubt she's the first person to say that) like this is so counterproductive.  Agreeing with the misogynistic things guys say, or that other women say, does not make other people respect you more.  Saying that you have nothing but male friends because "girls are just so dramatic and petty" is sexist.  Liking things because they're traditionally male is reinforcing gender stereotypes. 

The writer of STFU, Sexists up there once made a fantastic point that has stuck with me.  Ladies, you could someday be that slut/bitch/feminazi that some other girl and her guy friends are making fun of because they're too cool.  It hurts everyone, in the end, and it fragments the cause even more.  I'm not saying that there aren't women that genuinely just like having friends that are guys more, that there aren't women that enjoy going to strip clubs and flashing their tits.  And there's nothing wrong with that!"  But doing it because you want to impress men and earn their respect is not helping you achieve your goals, and certainly isn't helping society as a whole.

I've witnessed this.  I've witnessed women judge women for having abortions without knowing their circumstances.  I've seen women say that other women were such shrill harpies that their husbands should have left them.  I've seen women call each other skanks and whores for no discernible reason.  And I've seen women sit around with their group of male friends and rip on other women just for fun.  I'm not saying I have never been that woman.  At times, I'm sure I have.  And I try to stop myself when I do it because I know it's not okay.  I think that if we all had a little more empathy and thought about the bigger picture and where these impulses tend to come from, we'd realize that joining misogynistic men is absolutely the opposite of beating them.

I have Chaz's sports column for tomorrow! 


  1. This is a lovely, well-explained and very well-illustrated entry. Thanks for this, I will definitely be using it in future internet arguments! XD

  2. Stumbled across this while looking for another blog. Great article. I really enjoyed Levy's book a couple of years ago.